Cyberbullying is a consequence of electronic media. Vandebosche and Van Cleemput (2008) summarize cyberbullying as the use of electronic media with hurtful intent by the perpetrator. It is characterized by repetitive denigration where the perpetrator is in a more powerful position than the victim. The Pew Research Center reports that over half (59%) of American adolescence have experienced some form of cyberbullying. In fact, in their monograph, Aronson et al. (2019) writes that the greatest source of internet danger for young people is not pornography, adult sexual predation, or sexting, but rather cyberbullying by peers (p. 737).

Cyberbullying is a form of aggression. Its consequence is an infliction of psychological and physiological harm on the victim. Done at the expense of the victim, the perpetrator perceives from these acts, reward. It is a confirmation of power over the victim. In essence, then, its reward is an affirmation and extension of empowerment. In a conceptual model of online adolescent bullying Runions (2013) propose the causes of cyberbullying are the activation of a hostile schema, loss of anger self-control, rumination, lack of empathy, excitation transference, and thrill-seeking. Operating in concert with each other, these then provide a reward for the perpetrator.

Cohen-Almagor (2018), in a review of the literature, conclude that cyberbullying may be mediated. In the section titled ‘remedies’, the author proposes numerous actions to disempower cyberbullying. These are; recognize the gap between emotional and cognitive maturity in adolescence, be aware of risk-taking and thrill-seeking, mediation of peer pressure, and community involvement in cyberbullying awareness (p. 46).

In summary, cyberbullying is a common occurrence within adolescent populations. Perpetrators inflict both psychological and physiological harm on their victims. These perpetrators seek a reward through empowerment. It is, therefore “punching down”. That is, it is an affirmation of power from an individual with more cyber-social power than the victim. It is in this context that the perpetrator receives his or her reward. The ability to establish empathy in adolescence may be the most difficult hurdle to overcome in defeating cyberbullying. The emotional, and empathetic behavior of adolescence is typically less than their cognitive abilities. As such their ability to inflict harm in their peer group, and below is significant, and the consequences may not be fully recognized by the perpetrator. Any remedy for cyberbullying needs to consider these.


Anderson, M. (September 27, 2018). A majority of teens have experienced some form of cyberbullying. Pew research center

Aronson, E., Wilson, T. D., Akert, R. M., & Sommers, S. R. (Eds.) (2019). Social Psychology (10th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

Cohen-Almagor, R. (2018). Social responsibility on the internet: Addressing the challenge of cyberbullying. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 39, 42–52.

Runions, K. C. (2013). Toward a Conceptual Model of Motive and Self-Control in Cyber-Aggression: Rage, Revenge, Reward, and Recreation. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 42(5), 751–771.

Vandebosch, H., & Van Cleemput, K., (2008). Defining cyberbullying: a qualitative research into the perceptions of youngsters, CyberPsychology & behavior, 11(4)